Using Kinnan as Commander
In both paper play commander and online Arena historic brawl, Kinnan is one of the most popular generals. He gives access to two great colors (green for ramp and blue for counterspells and control), is cheap to cast at two mana, and has your nonlands tap for an extra mana.
This puts your mana weenie creatures and artifact rocks to good use, quickly amassing the seven mana Kinnan needs for his effect, letting you play a non-human creature from among your deck's top five cards for free! Kinnan's definitely one of Arena's best generals, but I often see players using cards that have better alternatives—here are ten cards to avoid in Kinnan brawl decks!
10. Fabled Passage
Why it doesn't work: Not useful early-game
Replace with: Basic lands or dual-color lands
Fabled Passage is a great card, but works better in decks juggling more than three colors. It sacrifices itself to play any basic land tapped, and you untap the land if you now control at least four.
Useful color-fixing, but the problem is this isn't good for the early-game explosive turns Kinnan wanst. Your game plan should be a turn-one mana weenie like Llanowar Elves so you can immediately start tapping for extra resources turn-two once you play Kinnan. Problem is, Fabled Passage plays tapped lands early on, so unless you're using tons of landfall abilities, I'd recommend other lands.
And definitely don't use Evolving Wilds, which is even worse since it never plays an untapped land.
9. Thassa, Deep-Dwelling
Why it doesn't work: Kinnan has no entrance effect
Replace with: Try Nylea, Keen-Eyed for a better god
Thassa's another good card, but not necesarrily the best for Kinnan. She's indestructible and doesn't count as a creature until your blue devotion hits five; since Kinnan decks tend to have more green symbols in permanents, this can take awhile, which makes her impressive 6/5 stats largely irrelevant.
While Thassa has a cool effect that flickers a creature at your end step, exiling it and returning it to the field, the problem is that Kinnan himself doesn't have any entrance ability to exploit. Yes, some of the creatures in your deck will, but it's not consistent enough to rely on. Instead, try more reliable abilities; I enjoy the creature-reduction of Nylea Keen-Eyed. Plus, since the gods are enchantments, they empower the enchantment-to-mana effect of Sanctum Weaver.
8. Wicked Wolf
Why it doesn't work: Can only take out low-level threats, bad secondary effect
Replace with: Thorn Mammoth and Kogla the Titan Ape
Wicked Wolf's stats of 3/3 really aren't amazing for a fous-cost creature, his subtype is underwhelming, and there are simply better fight-based creatures for Kinnan to play. And the more you focus on creature removal, the more you'll be exposing yourself to a one-sided board wipe.
Wolf has a secondary effect that lets you sacrifice a food token to gain a +1/+1 indestructible for the turn, but since Wolf doesn't create any, you'll rarely get to use it, plus doing so will tap Wolf.
7. Alrund's Epiphany
Why it doesn't work: Weaker in Arena, Kinnan already has a 7-cost play
Replace with: Time Warp, Karn's Temporal Sundering
Extra turns are admittedly one of blue's strongest effects, and Alrund's Epiphany lets you take one for seven mana. If you foretold it first (paying two mana and putting it into exile), you also create two 1/1 bird tokens with flying.
While nice when it resolves, Arena adjusted the card to be more balanced—now, foretelling doesn't reduce the cost like it does in paper play, so it's only useful for tokens, which now come only when foretold.
Also, you already have a great effect to use once you reach seven mana—Kinnan's ability. And running too many big plays that aren't creatures increases your chances of Kinnan's effect fizzling; you need to reveal at least one non-human for it to work, so adding too many non-creatures can flop.
6. Replicating Ring
Why it doesn't work: Too slow, low synergy
Replace with: Relic of Legends, Midnight Clock
Mana rocks are admittedly nice with Kinnan since unlike creatures, they don't have to wait for summoning sickness to wear off, and with Kinnan out, cards like Replicating Ring will tap for two mana instead of one.
But Replicating Ring's bonus effect is just too unreliable when there are better alternatives. It gets a night counter at your upkeep, and once it gets eight, it creates eight tokens that all tap for one mana. This is an amazing effect, but requires eight full turns to resolve, and if your opponent hasn't found an answer (or simply ended the game) by then, they're already in trouble.
5. Voracious Hydra/Hydroid Krasis
Why it doesn't work: X is treated as zero when played with Kinnan
Replace with: Ulvenwald Hydra and Kogla the Titan Ape
I like hydras as much as the next green player, but the simple fact is they don't work well with Kinnan's effect because he'll treat the X value in their costs as zero. Since X usually determines hydra power and toughness (through +1/+1 counters), this means they either die immediately (Krasis) or enter as a puny 0/1 (Voracious).
If you want hydras without X mana costs, try Ulvenwald Hydra or Gargos Vicious Watcher, and to replicate the creature-battling effect of Voracious, I'd suggest Kogla, the Titan Ape.
4. Nissa Who Shakes the World
Why it doesn't work: Only half your deck is forests
Replace with: Mana-tapping creatures
Nissa does offer a nice passive ramp effect, letting your forests tap for an extra green mana. But since she's a planeswalker, you can't play her with Kinnan, and Nissa's effect isn't as powerful in a two-color deck as it would be in mono-green. Her +1 can make a land 3/3 elemental and untaps it; while this does help with aggro, it makes Kinnan decks even more vulnerable to creature board wipes, further exaggerating the deck's greatest weakness.
If you want more ramp in your deck, I'd simply suggest adding additional mana-providing creatures and artifacts. Try Circle of Dreams Druid or Gilded Lotus. The land Nykthos Shrine to Nyx can also give mana based on devotion (the number of a color's symbols in permanents you control).
3. Volo. Guide to Monsters
Why it doesn't work: Kinnan can't play humans, too situational
Replace with: Beast Whisperer
Volo draws when you cast a creature that doesn't share a type with a creature you control or in your graveyard. In addition to not always giving you a draw (after all, Volo's human and wizard subtypes are popular), the biggest issue is that Kinnan simply can't play humans, immediately making Volo much less consistent than non-humans.
Instead try Beast Whisperer, who gives you a draw for any creature casting, can be played with only green mana, and works well with elf synergy.
2. Sea Gate Restoration/Sea Gate Reborn
Why it doesn't work: Kinnan offers a better seven-cost play
Replace with: Basic islands (or multicolor lands)
Sea Gate can either be played as a blue land that enters tapped or untapped if you pay three life. Or you cast it to draw for each card in hand, also gaining an infinite hand size.
The versatility is nice, but Kinnan's already giving you a seven-mana play, and unlike this card, that play can't be countered and operates at instant speed. Plus, Kinnan decks tend to burn through their hands quickly, which means even resolving the effect won't always give that many cards. Sea Gate also lacks the island subtype, which can occasionally detriment effects like Vineglimmer Snarl.
1. Drover of the Mighty
Why it doesn't work: Again, you want non-humans
Replace with: Any non-human mana weenies, especially ones with elf synergy
Drover is the card I always see and question. Yes, you normally won't pick two-mana creatures using Kinnan's effect, but there can and will be times where those are the only creatures revealed, and if it's Drover, you can't play him; far better a low-level mana weenie than nothing.
Drover's stats aren't great either (he's 1/1 and very occasionally gets +2/+2 if you control a dinosaur) and he offers no elemental or elf synergy. Plus, other turn-two weenies can sometimes tap for more than one mana even without Kinnan, like Leafkin Druid and Sanctum Weaver.
Staple Cards for Kinnan
Today we focused on common cards for Kinnan to dodge, but staples like turn-one mana weenie Llanowar Elves and Elfish Mystic are must-haves. You'll want creature supports like the green land Castle Garenbrig and may consider elf tribal supports such as planeswalker Freyalise, Skyshroud Partisan. But for now, share your preferred Kinnan build and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2023 Jeremy Gill